A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

eBook - 2010 | 1st ed.
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On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared--Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor.
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780679603757
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xviii, 473 p.) : ill., map.


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Apr 20, 2020

Amazing true story that most will love. 100% recommend!

IndyPL_SteveB Dec 03, 2019

In 1936, 19-year-old Louis Zamperini of Torrance, California ran the 5,000-meter race in the Berlin Olympics. He finished 8th but was looking forward to the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo. Then World War II began and the Olympics were called off. Zamperini joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and was trained as a bombardier. In 1943, his plane crashed in the South Pacific and the three survivors began an amazing, terrifying journey that included surviving 46 days on a life raft, capture by the Japanese, and nearly two years of brutal treatment in several Japanese prison camps.

There are many things that have stuck in my mind from this book. One is the incredible dangers of the War in the Pacific. Training was hasty and incomplete, and in the first half of the war more planes were actual lost in training accidents than in combat. Airmen in the Pacific, especially the ones flying in the hastily designed B-24s, had more than a 50% chance of being killed. Crashing into the Pacific in a B-24 was usually fatal, and even if some men survived and were able to deploy a life raft, the rafts were inadequately supplied, and survivors were hard to see in the vast space of the ocean.

This is a book that is hard to stop reading, even as the dangers mount and the torture of prisoners becomes too horrific to tolerate. However, Zamperini’s journey, survival, and self-reinvention make for an inspiring life story. The book was deeply researched and well-written. You will gain a new appreciation for what you likely did NOT have to go through yourself.

Sep 03, 2019

My book

Jul 28, 2019

Everyone seems to give this the highest ranking possible, so I will apparently be devil's advocate and give it much less. Which, not to be cute, is what I wish the book had been: less. There was too much information; sometimes the descriptions seemed to be almost minute by minute. Too many details. While some readers called the book a "page turner" I thought the opposite. Each time I put the book down I would think, "OK, I'm not going back to that." But later I did, partly so I could say I did finish it. That's not to say I read every word, for I skimmed over a lot of the details in the ocean, and at the POW camps. Too much of the action was nearly the same as all the previous ones. I got really bored with all the details.
A additional thing about the author's writing that was annoying was that she would describe the horrible injuries to Louis or one of the other characters, making it sound as if he was nearly dead, then in the next paragraph or page she would claim that that character then jumped up, or down, and ran to save or rescue someone, or to put out a fire, or some other difficult thing.
Over and over again I found myself wondering how in the world anybody could run, lift, swim, fight off an attack by a shark or a man, or do anything else so vigorous when suffering the horrific injuries she'd just vividly described. That was one reason I got so frustrated with the book; each time a dreadful event occurred, I'd feel empathy toward the sufferer, but then he would do something practically superhuman despite the injuries, and I would wonder, "How on earth . . .?" And then a page or five or 10 later there would be an event that was nearly the same as the past ones, and the same thing was claimed: dreadful injuries followed by heroic efforts to save himself or others. There was just not a believable match-up, for me. It's not that I don't believe her claims, exactly, but it never seemed real to me.

Mar 26, 2019

My book

Sometimes the truth is far more unbelievable than fiction could ever be. The life of Louis Zamperini would fit into this category. After his plane crashes in the Pacific during a search and rescue mission he survives for weeks in a tiny inflatable boat before being picked up by a Japanese ship and sent to a POW camp where he is mercilessly persecuted by a guard who is determined to break him. This is the story of Louis, his life, struggles, and ultimately his redemption. Laura Hildenbrand is a true storyteller. No movie can capture what Louis actually had to go through. Like her other books, I found that this book kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. (Submitted by Braden).

DBRL_KrisA Nov 26, 2016

I've read a substantial amount of material about World War II, but the majority of it covered the European war or the Holocaust, so this book about an airman in the Pacific theatre was somewhat new territory for me.
To be honest, though, this is less of a history of World War II than it is a somewhat-biography of Louie Zamperini - grade school troublemaker, Olympic athlete, World War II bomber crew member and Japanese POW-camp survivor. Hillenbrand does an excellent job of explaining such diverse topics as track and field, WWII aircraft, the Japanese code of honor, POW camp conditions, even mid-century Christian evangelism, but where this book really shines is in how it shows those subjects through the eyes of Zamperini, how it takes him from hoodlum to track star to airman to POW, and especially how it shows the effects his experiences in Japan had on him post-war. This was easily one of my favorite historical reads.
A (not so) quick final note: It did take me almost three weeks to read the book, which is quite a bit longer than my average book time. One shouldn't assume from this that the book was difficult to read; on the contrary, the author's writing style lends an almost narrative feeling to the book (except in sections filled with statistics on airplane accidents or POW survival). I found myself involved in several other outside projects and had little time at some points for leisure reading. It's a testament to Hillenbrand's skill that I was able each time to quickly jump back into the action of the book.

KumonBear Sep 23, 2016

Its a book that's building up chapter by chapter. An amazing book that I'll never forget. I read it when I was 8th grade and I still want to read it. Now its still interesting to me. Its just simply and amazing book. Best historical book I've ever read. You just have to read it till the very end.

mcmahonn Aug 09, 2016

This is an extraordinary historical account of survival in times of war under unimaginable circumstances. This story demonstrates how courage, strength and faith can overcome any obstacles. My favorite part of this amazing story was not all the unthinkable trials he went through, but the admirable way he reacted to it all and his miraculous journey to forgiveness and healing. It inspired me not to give up and reminded me that in spite of adversity and even when I’m are not aware, there's a divine being that is present and gives strength to endure and to forgive. It is remarkable, moving, intense, exceptional and encouraging. I highly recommend that people read this book sometime in their life, it’s not just a story, but an unforgettable experience.

Brief Recap

The story illustrates the life of Louie Zamperini and the atrocities of war. When he was a young boy he was delinquent. Eventually he became a runner and participated in the Berlin Olympics. Later he became an airman, then his plane crashed into the ocean and he was stranded for 47 days surrounded by sharks. After this, he was captured by Japanese forces and became a prisoner of war that endured horrible dehumanizing treatment.

Favorite part

After his unbelievable ordeal he finally returns home, but the war wasn't over in his heart. He remained chained to the memory of his captors, his mind became his new tormentor. It was difficult for him to live life, he was self-destructing.

His desperate wife took him to a Billy Graham Campaign where he had a spiritual awakening and found redemption. As he stood there surrounded by the chairs and people, he suddenly had a flashback. Everything disappeared and instead he was in the open sea again. He remembered the day he admired the still beauty of the ocean and the sky, it felt like a gift to him, and at that moment he believed that his surroundings were the work of someone bigger. That day he forgot his terrible circumstances and only felt gratitude. As he came back from that memory, he felt uneasy and wanted to leave the campaign, but as he was walking towards the exit he had another flashback of the raft at sea. He saw his dying friends, the sun beating on them and the sharks swimming around them. He remembered how desperate he was for a drink of water and how in that moment he whispered: "If you will save me, I will serve you forever". The following day it poured and they survived. As his flashback ended it started to rain outside as well, that's when he decided that instead of leaving he would go to the front. There he experienced a spiritual rebirth and believed, his mind would never torment him again.

After this experience he returned to Japan to see his captors, not to seek vengeance, but to forgive them. As he saw them, all he felt was compassion and he realized the war in his heart was finally over. He finally had peace, he was finally set free.

Favorite Quotes:

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food and oxygen." (page 183)

"Awed to silence, forgetting his thirst and his hunger, forgetting that he was dying, Louie had known only gratitude. That day, he had believed that what lay around them was the work of infinitely broad, benevolent hands, a gift of compassion" (page 374)

"What God asks of me, said Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith. To know who sees him, God makes himself unseen"(page 375)

TSCPL_Librarian_Deb May 31, 2016

An amazing, unforgettable, and inspiring true story of bravery, courage, and endurance. It was definitely as good as all the hype about it said it was. I enjoyed Louis Zamperini's spirit as he refused to let anything break him. I'll never forget the memorable scenes from his life such as his time at the Olympics from 1936 where he stole a German flag, his harrowing experiences on a small rubber raft in the Pacific ocean where he fought off sharks to survive, and his brutal treatment by a Japanese madman after his imprisonment that almost became his undoing. Even that he overcame with a little divine intervention and he even learned to forgive his captors. His story is a shining example of the resilience of the human spirit. I cannot recommend it enough.

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Junghyun Lee
Jan 12, 2015

Junghyun Lee thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

Jul 18, 2014

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Aug 25, 2013

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Jul 18, 2014

Violence: This book takes place during a war

Jul 18, 2014

Coarse Language: Some harsh language it does take place during a war.


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cathyf3 Aug 02, 2016

A World War II story of true events that wil amaze the reader. Louie Zamperini was a superb athlete who ran in the Berlin Olympics. He then joined the service and became an airman, then on a doomed flight in 1943. This plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean and was stranded in a life raft for many days. This is only the beginning of his trials in Japanese prison camps and torture. A story of how strong the mind can be under such circumstances. It is a truly an inspiratioonal story. You have to read this to believe it.


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